By Farooq Kperogi
The moral outrage over Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun’s obviously forged National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate, which the Nigerian presidency has chosen to strategically ignore in hopes that it will peter out, dramatizes, in more ways than one, the spuriousness of President Muhammadu Buhari’s self-serving claims to embodying “integrity.”
Any person who is obsessed with proclaiming his “integrity” at the slightest opportunity but won’t investigate, much less fire, shady characters he has appointed to work with- and for- him can’t possibly be truly a person of integrity.
From PTF to the Buhari Organization (TBO), Buhari has consistently protected corrupt close aides from the consequences of their ethical and legal infractions. This attitude of mollycoddling corrupt but loyal aides and appointees while pretending to be a man of “integrity” who is “fighting” corruption is getting worse by the day and indicates that, in spite of self-righteous declarations to the contrary, Buhari is himself morally indistinguishable from his crooked cronies.
This reality manifested from the very nascence of the Buhari presidency. About three months into his administration, Buhari appointed William Babatunde Fowler as Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). In announcing his appointment, presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said Fowler had an honorary doctorate from “Irish International University.”
This immediately set offscam alarms in my head and, within 20 minutes of the announcement, I researched and found that the honorary doctorate was a scam. I shared my findings on Facebook, which went viral at the time.
Fowler quickly edited his online public profiles within hours of my exposing him and removed all references to his fake doctorate. (Read my August 29, 2015 column titled “On Fowler’s Fake Doctorate and Integrity Deficit.”) The last sentence in the column was, “I won’t be comfortable with that sort of person as my country’s chief’s tax collector. But the choice is ultimately President Buhari’s to make.”
Buhari ignored the scandal as if it never happened. As I predicted, Fowler’s FIRS has become a byword for reckless untowardness. Scores of people from the organization share many things with me that I haven’tshared-and won’t, for now, share- with the public because I haven’t independently verified them.
But in a widely publicized June 15, 2016 news report-complete with unassailable documentary proofs-Sahara Reporters found that “the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), headed by Mr. Babatunde Fowler, a protégé of BolaTinubu,…has been found to have overseen recruitment exercises in violation of Nigeria’s rules of public advertisement.”
He illegally employed 349 cronies to top-level positions. The trend hasn’t abated, and Buhari has ignored it he is himself a beneficiary.
On October 26, 2016, Premium Times reported that Buhari’s Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani, “was charged with fraud 15 years ago, after he was indicted in 2000 by the government of Cross River State where he served as a commissioner.” His indictment “is documented in a state government White Paper,” according to the paper.That’s as indisputably verifiable as it can get. Yet the minister has neither been investigated nor fired- in a government that fancies itself as “fighting corruption.”
A certain Louis Edozien who was fired in 2014 as Executive Director at the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) for failure to produce authentic credentials, including an NYSC certificate, during an audit was reinstated and promoted to the position of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing in November 2016. NDPHC’s General Manager in charge of audit and compliance by the name of Mrs. Maryam Mohammed who audited Edozien’s credentials and recommended his firing was unjustly fired in apparent retaliatory vendetta.
The position of Permanent Secretary is normally the crowning accomplishment of career civil servants, but Edozien isn’t a career civil servant and shouldn’t be a permanent secretary, according to the Daily Trust of October 20, 2017, which said “highly placed officials in the presidency facilitated” this rape of justice. SaharaReporters of October 12, 2017 was blunter: “Mr. Edozien is a friend and business partner to Mr. [Abba] Kyari,” it wrote. “The Chief of Staff’s daughter also worked directly under Mr. Edozien.”
It gets worse. On September 20, 2016, Sahara Reporters reported that this same Abba Kyari “took N500m from operators of MTN to help the telecommunications giant mitigate the fine imposed on it by the federal government.”About three months after this expose, MTN fired its top staffers who facilitated the bribe in order “to avoid scrutiny by the United States government over bribes offered to Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari,”according to Sahara Reporters. The presidency, as usual, intentionally ignored the story.
President Muhammdu Buhari’s personal complicity in the illegal reinstatement and promotion of indicted fugitive Abdulrasheed Maina is well known.“I sought audience with His Excellency, Mr. President on Wednesday, 11th October, 2017 after the FEC meeting where I briefed His Excellency verbally on the wide-ranging implications of the reinstatement of Mr. A. A. Maina, especially the damaging impact on the anti-corruption stance of this administration,” the Head of Service wrote in a memo to the President’s Chief of Staff, which was leaked to the press. Buhari had pretended before then that he had not the foggiest idea that Maina had been reinstated and promoted. Again, the presidency ignored the bombshell from the Head of Service.
In 2016 when the national budget was “padded” by top civil servants in the executive arm of government, Buhari said in Saudi Arabia that,“The culprits will not go unpunished.” Well, they have remained unpunished to this day. Investigations by the Economic Intelligence Magazine of November 6, 2016 showed that “officials who were sanctioned by their deployment outside Federal Ministry of Finance have since resumed duties in the same Ministry without the highly publicized punishment the President promised while speaking to Nigerians resident in Saudi Arabia.”
There is no point recalling Buhari’s over protection of corrupt and disgraced former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal. Buhari actually wrote in his personal capacity to exonerate Lawal of corruption charges, butwas later forced to eat his own vomit by firing him. To this day, Lawal hasn’t been prosecuted, is still a regular visitor to the Presidential Villa, and is, in fact, the Adamawa State coordinator of the president’s reelection campaign!
Remember, too, that the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Property by the name of Okoi Obono-Obla, who is one of the arrowheads of Buhari’s “anti-corruption fight,” has conclusively been found to have forged his secondary school certificate to gain admission to study law at the University of Jos. According to the Daily Trust of June 6, 2018, WAEC’s deputy registrar, Femi Ola, told the House of Representatives that Obono-Obla’s WAEC certificate was “fake, not genuine.” More than one month after this revelation, the scammer still retains his job, and the presidency has, in keeping with its wont, ignored it.
So Finance Minister Adeosun’s brazen forgery of an NYSC exemption certificate, which she isn’t even qualified to get in the first place given that she got her bachelor’s degree in her early 20s, and the presidency’s shame-faced silence over the matter, are merely additions to a list that is getting scandalously long. It is impossible to deploy the resources of logic to argue that Buhari has integrity. He doesn’t.
Well, unless integrity means something to Buhari supporters other than what it actually means in the English language.
Farooq Kperogi, is a Nigerian academic, media scholar, public speaker and newspaper columnist.